Tag Archives: work life balance

Life as a Role Model

Mum.  Wife.  Daughter.  Manager.  Colleague.  Friend.

Most of us have lots of titles.

I am starting to realise another one I hadn’t yet included.  Role Model.

My daughter has just turned three.  Yes, it’s a delightful age. We’re just starting to experience her increasing ability to express herself, her burgeoning personality and she’s making her own friends for the first time.

She’s also learning a lot about the world around her.  She’s decided she must be married to her friend Oliver because most of the other people in her life come in heterosexual couples.  (Sorry about that friends whose families come in different shapes and sizes – we must have you over more often!)

She’s also assumed that my last name is the same as my husbands because hers is. (Umm, nope.)

I am also being asked to share any clothes she’d like to wear to play Working.

Playing Working means picking up my handbag, putting one of her father’s ties around her shoulders, and putting on a pair of my shoes.  She then picks up her keys and heads to the front door.

This is life as Miss 3 knows it.

It’s also the age when you start to wonder what she’ll be good at later in life;   whether she’s clever, what her strengths are.  Her language and emotional intelligence seem good, so maybe she’ll be a psychologist.  She seems a tad clumsy, so probably won’t be a professional tennis player.

I’m not too concerned about any of these, but I do want her to have confidence, friends and to always feel that she is loved.

And I am starting to realise how important it is for me to be a good role model to help these things happen.

When I go to the gym in the morning, I’m showing her that exercise is  important to me.  That I value being healthy and it makes me feel good. (I still love a cuddle in bed on the non-gym mornings though!)

When I go to work, I am showing her that women can be mummies and have a job too.  When I take a work phone call outside work hours, as frustrating as it is for both of us, I am showing her that other people value me, that my advice and support is needed by others.

When I have coffee with a friend, I am showing her I’m an individual with my own needs and preferences, just like her.

When Daddy and I go out for an evening, I’m showing her that Daddy and I have a relationship that is not always about her.  We go to dinner as a family too, but each of us makes time for a relationship one on one.

Until recently, all of these things made me feel guilty and torn between my roles as Mum and Worker  – and Working Mum was all I could be.

Accepting my job as a Role Model has not only relieved my guilt about two roles, but has created a bit more space for Wife, Daughter and Friend as well.

Kirsten

Do you see your life as a series of different roles for you to play?

Do you feel torn between them?

Birthday party tips for working mums

I did not bake this cake. My friend Shehana who has more kids and a more demanding job than me did.

It turns out I can organise a party with punch for three year olds.

Miss Nearly Three turns Three this week and I’ve been panicking about her birthday party since she first shared the guest list with me… nine months ago.

As soon as she’d blown the candles out on Grandma’s cake last July, she started asking me what would happen for her birthday.  I said we could have some friends over and eat cake, if she wished.

We’ve discussed it Every Single Day since.

Each time it’s been somebody else’s birthday, we’ve counted the months/days/weeks until hers, and discussed our plans.  After day care there is always a new best friend to consider.  Mummy and Daddy have come on and off the guest list depending on the number of Time Outs issued.  But the need for cake has been a constant.

Somewhat naively, about a month ago, I sat down with Miss Nearly Three and the Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake book.  I was inspired by my friend Shehana who posted the gorgeous work of art above on Facebook.  We had a lovely afternoon looking through cakes and working out which one we’d make for the big party.  And then I realised, I simply would not have time! I have not yet met a working mum with hours in her life for fabulously intricate baking.  Except Shehana, and I’m seriously thinking about defriending her on Facebook.

Fortunately, last week I read this great post from Mrs Woog at Kidspot, which helped me realise that many of the cool mums have learned to cut corners.

So here’s what worked for me.

Invitations

I did send out invitations, but since none of the kids can read, and I did it so late I had to text everyone anyway, I wondered why I didn’t just invite everyone by SMS?  Cheaper than a stamp, they have all the details ready to hand and a reply SMS means the RSVP is done too.

Food

This is a vexed issue.  Too much sugar and you’re the bad mum who rotted all the other kids’ teeth.  Not enough, and you’ve broken the kids’ hearts.  We opted for a fruit plate upon arrival, some store bought mini-muffins and a round of coffees for the parents, help yourself juice for everyone and a sausage sizzle.

The sausage sizzle was not my idea, but when we attended a birthday party for Miss Nearly Three’s friend Oliver last weekend it appeared to us as genius. Our local Woolies had packs of 24 sausages for less than $10. Plenty of food, something adults and kids love and by slicing the bread into triangle halves there was no need for plates.  Dishes done.

Numbers

Tips to remember in determining numbers for your toddler party.

  • DO NOT invite every small child mentioned in conversation over the previous nine months.  You do not need two dozen toddlers in your home.
  • DO NOT invite all of your adult friends with kids. You won’t get time to chat to them anyway, and kids in groups usually prefer ones close to them in age.  Others get left out or ignored.  Best see those friends one on one, like when you and your friends are having coffee and watching your differently-aged kids use a playground together.
  • DO NOT, under any circumstances, believe your child when she says that someone is her best friend.  This will change many times in the next few years, and almost immediately after you’ve finalised a guest list.
  • Reinforce the good decisions.  Remember to invite the parents you like and the kids you know your kid has enjoyed hanging with on several previous occasions.  Talk about how exciting it will be to see them constantly.
  • Above all, the rule about inviting the number of kids equal to your kids age seemed appropriate.  So we doubled it.

Toys

The most important thing we’ve learned, from previous hosting experience, is to PUT AWAY THE PUZZLES!  You will spend the next three weeks finding pieces wedged into your backside when you sit down to watch Grey’s Anatomy.  You know I speak from experience on this one.

So we left out a few larger toys but put all the good stuff in the backyard.  This worked on all the kids except for poor Sebastian, who remembered our paltry collection of Matchbox cars from a visit last December and spent the whole three hours looking for them.

Cake

I’m pretty sure that this was the highlight of Miss Nearly Three’s life so far. Even better than the zoo.  Even better than the time she convinced me to put the car window down so she could yell out when I’m at 80ks an hour, “You’ll never find my shoes now, ha ha ha!”  Yep, even better than that.

And it was all due to…. Michel’s Patisserie.

This is not the actual cake. There are only two pieces left of ours.

I realised a constant theme in the ever changing requests for cake was chocolate, so we went to Michel’s, flicked through the pictures and made a selection. Princesses of course. Only one day’s notice needed. The downside was that the one we wanted wasn’t available online as promised, so I needed some help to get to the shop.  Annoying for working mums Michels!  More expensive than homemade, but hours and  hours of my life bought back.  The kids loved it.

Last night, as I was patting a ridiculously over-tired little girl off to to sleep, she threw her arms around me and said, “Mummy thank you for my party.  It was the best party ever.”

Mission accomplished.

Working mums think dads get a raw deal

According to a survey of 365 working parents in the UK, almost two thirds of working mums think men are discriminated against with regard to flexible working arrangements.

According to a Workingmums.co.uk survey for International Women’s Day,  65% felt men were not given a fair hearing over flexible working.

The survey also found that;

  • 43% felt they did over 75% of the domestic chores and childcare.
  • Around 40% of working mums had taken a step back in their career since having children.
  • Only 29% had progressed in their career.
  • The rest had stayed at the same level

Women were concerned about the lack of flexible new jobs. A third felt trapped in the job they went on maternity leave from because they could not find a new job which gave them the work life balance they needed. A massive 89% had considered working for themselves to get a better work life balance, although 43% said they couldn’t afford to.

Meanwhile, in Australia, the union movement is currently conducting an independent inquiry into insecure work in Australia.

The inquiry website tells us that;

The last two decades in Australia has seen a dramatic decline in permanent work, and corresponding growth of insecure forms of employment, such as casual, contract work and labour hire.

The full extend and impact of this shift on workers, their families and the Australian community has never been formally investigated.

The inquiry will report its findings to the Australian Council of Trade Unions Congress in 2012, along with recommendations on measures that can be taken to address any problems that are identified.

Do you think dads miss out due to inflexible working arrangements?

Has having children affected your career?

What would you like to see the inquiry recommend?

You can read submissions to the inquiry and see what others are suggesting here.

Great Australian based website Careermums has great information on how to have the ‘flexibility conversation’ with a new employer here.

Victoria Beckham – not miserable, just a tired working mum

Most working mums probably don’t think they have much in common with Victoria Beckham, but over the weekend she was called upon to explain her fatigued appearance at Fashion Week

I’ve never really wanted to look like Victoria, but I do wish I looked like this when I was fatigued:

* With thanks to xposurephotos.com

As the Posh one herself explains:

I’m not going to lie about it, I’m tired. I’m really tired but I’m also very happy with my life.

In another interview she said:

“Being a working mum is hard – I think women can relate to me when I say it’s like juggling glass balls.

Sound familiar?

You can read more about what Posh is up to and why the latest Spice Girls reunion rumours are wrong at The Daily Mail

Some weeks need a health warning

By Friday, I’m usually exhausted.  This week, I may have set a new record.  Things that have made me tired this week include:

Miss Nearly Three learning new ways to ‘push the boundaries’.  

Yes, I realise this is developmental.  I get that she’s learning how to be a person. I *know* that three year olds can be even worse than two year olds and four year olds are a Whole Other Story.  I understand she’s testing me and it’s-just-a-stage-and-she-will-get-over-it.

But, please, can her latest methods *not* involve unspeakable acts with poo??

Mums will know the kind of thing I’m talking about. Those who are not will already think I’ve overshared.

Being a single mum for three nights.                                                         I have several single mum friends and they are all awesome.  After three nights without my husband to tell me that it’s-just-a-stage-and-she-will-get-over-it and “Woah, exactly how much medicinal chocolate do you really *need* there??”, I conclude my single mum friends are even more awesome than I had originally thought.

Worrying about other people
I visited a friend in a cardio ward yesterday.  She’s the kind of friend who came to my house when I was having a single mum week with a tiny baby, cooked me roast beef, did the dishes and left really early so I could get a good night’s sleep.  Yesterday, I turned up with grapes. It didn’t really feel like enough.
Another friend lost his mum this week, and I’m off to the funeral this afternoon. Hugs are all I can think of.
Work is crazy
I realised this morning than when all my headspace is used up thinking of new strategies to overcome the latest it’s-just-a-stage-and-she-will-get-over-it period, I forget all of the work stuff I need to do.  And comes back at 4am.*
The list gets intimidatingly long, and I start making lists of “If I don’t get these three things done the world will end, and everything else can wait til next week.”  At 4am.
Things that will help this weekend include:
1. Reading Mrs Woog.  She always makes me laugh and sometimes makes me cry.
2. Some sunshine and exercise – scheduled for tomorrow morning.
3. A nice bedtime story at 7:30 which will help me forget certain unspeakable acts and remember how great being a mum can be.
4. A glass of wine, scheduled for 7:45pm.
Have a great weekend!
Kirsten
*This post drafted at 4am as a work avoidance technique!

Childcare benefit – creating a society ‘dependent’ on handouts. Apparently.

Today in the Financial Review, Liberal MP Jamie Briggs has claimed that childcare support from the government creates a cycle of dependency.

Is he kidding? Let’s hope so.

The article isn’t online so I can’t provide a link but here are some choice quotes.

What comes with these big spending Labor Governments is a society that is more and more dependent on government handouts. Take, for example, childcare.

This cycle of dependency is reinforced by policies that make it harder and harder to get off the government teat.

Mr Briggs goes on to express concern about the changes the government is making to childcare and the potential increase in costs as a result of improvements in staff qualifications and staff to child ratios.

Strangely, the thing that irks me most is that he refers to quality childcare in inverted commas.

“Quality” child care

Umm, it’s not a joke, or a made up thing. It’s something most mums (and dads) want for their kids.

I can think of a few other areas of govenrment expenditure that might also create dependency.  Like a certain politician’s salary? It’s all about which government spending is worth it. Mmm

 Childcare support helps mums get back into the workforce – contributing to family income and rebuilding their careers.  Quality childcare (not “quality” childcare) helps kids learn and play well while their mums (and/or dads) are at work.

There are mixed views about the government’s changes to childcare. I’ve penned a view of mine below. Share your views here.   Or you can let Jamie know on Twitter (@BriggsJamie)

UPDATE 5pm: The full article still isn’t available on the newspaper’s website but it is on Mr Briggs’ webpage at jamiebriggs.com.au

Five things all working mums need to know about changes to childcare

Last week when dropping Miss Nearly 3 at childcare, I spotted a mysterious sealed envelope marked “For Families” next to the sign in sheet. I looked around furtively and slipped it into my handbag, secretly hoping it was cash.

No, it was a letter from the government. After reading it, I was none the wiser as to what it was about. But after reading the leaflets and a bit of help from Google, it turns it was about money – money the government could be giving me – or indeed, you. So, if you never saw the envelope or received it, but had no idea what it was about, here are the key points.

1. Lots of Australian families aren’t claiming enough child care benefit because they don’t know about it or don’t realize their family could qualify. Child care benefit can be paid for families with incomes up to $161,581 in some cases!

2. Long Day care, family day care and outside school hours care and occasional care all qualify but any informal care (grandparents, nannies or babysitters) doesn’t.

3. Child care tax rebate is different from the child care benefit and is not income tested. (Yep, you read that correctly – NOT INCOME TESTED). You have to be working, studying or training to qualify but you can get up to $7500 per child per year.

4. You can claim these benefits up to two years in arrears. Talk to your child’s centre about getting those old receipts now!

5. You can get most of these benefits fortnightly, quarterly or annually direct into your bank account.

Important note. None of these changes mean your child will come home any less overtired. They will still smell as though they’ve been with other small children all day. I call it Eau de Day Care.

The Government also investing more money in childcare. This will mean things like:

• A better staff to child ratio

• Childcare workers will be better qualified

• An increase in fees in most centres

There are different views about these changes in the media. Some outlets have reported that costs would soar while others argue that the changes are worth paying for.

My fees haven’t gone up yet, but that could be because the standards were introduced earlier in NSW and we may have already absorbed them.

These are important issues. I wish the letter had said some of these things. Talk to your local centre and find out how it will affect you. Mine is a bit worried about losing some good staff but none of them have left yet.

Did you know about these changes? What do you think? More information about the child care rebate and child care rebate is available your local Family Assistance Office (they are located in Medicare offices) or by calling them on 13 61 50.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s lessons for working mums – no thanks

I have a love/hate relationship with Gwyneth.  I love most of her movies, but her lack of self awareness, or the world most of us live in, is quite odd.

Last week in an interview with Harpers Bazaar, Gynweth  said what made her marriage work  was being at home when her husband returned home from work.

What??  Nothing like a bit more pressure and guilt from a high profile and wealthy mum to make the rest of us feel bad.

I don’t really care about what works for Gwyneth because her life is so unlike mine  –  although I am interested in how some of the amazing mums I know manage to hold it all together despite challenges like commuting, managing finances and imperfect child care arrangements.

Fortunately Michelle Beckett at the Huffington Post UK has managed to sum up my concerns about this.  She writes:

I’d love to stay at home in the day with my three daughters, baking organic recipes from your twee lifestyle website and getting my nose hairs detoxed with sea purslane or whatever.

Waiting sweetly in a pretty dress for my husband (if I had one) to return from work, so I can rub his shoulders and fetch him his pipe and slippers as his organic butternut squash and quinoa supper cooks….

Let me tell you about MY life. I know enough about your perfect one, thanks…

I’m a single self-employed full time working mum of three girls aged 15, 11 and nearly three. I won’t moan, I consider myself very privileged. I juggle my successful business with organising myself, the girls, the logistics of two ex husbands, the housework, the cooking, the… holy crap, please no one drop in and notice my kitchen floor…

My life is a whirl of missing school letters, frantic washing of school tights at 11pm when we’ve run out, trying not to shout at kids for missing homework left to the last minute, painting walls, potty training, nursery pick ups…

Mixed with… (deep breath) preparation of PowerPoints and booking trains so I can go speak on stage to business audiences, as I try to look immaculate, professional and as if I have it all together behind the scenes, perfectly, like Gwyneth does.

Check out the full version of Michelle’s piece here.

What do you think of Gwyneth?  Am I being unfair in resenting her lessons to working mums?  Or is she simply answering questions about her life and if any of us feel guilty is it our problem?

Does working cost too much?

I read in the Sydney Morning Herald on the weekend an article about thousands of nurses threatening to resign as a result of increased costs to retrain. Apparently the Victorian Government is asking them to pay to upgrade their own qualifications and it’s not worth working anymore.  Some of them are considering other professions.

This had me doing a few sums about how much it costs me to work.

I really love my job, but sometimes I feel that, once you include work clothes, transport and day care, I don’t always “turn a profit”.

I completely understand women who don’t love their pre-kids job not wanting to go back.  Often it  doesn’t make economic sense to do so, regardless of your personal preferences.  Some days it’s worth it just so I can eat my lunch without adjusting a fairy costume from the Dress Ups box in between each mouthful.

The upside of working is that, even when my take home pay doesn’t seem that great, I’m contributing to my own retirement through my superannuation, which I know I’ll probably be grateful for later.

I know lots of women only make it work economically with the help of grandparents.  If so, did you know the Australian Government now provides the child care benefit to some families? Check out the familyassist.gov.au website for more information.  This too has an upside and a downside.  How do you talk to your mother-in-law about your toddler getting more sleep? Hmmm…

When is it worth going back to work?  How much do you need to earn before it’s worth being apart from your kids? Would you change careers to make it more worthwhile?

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